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Is there anything you can do about oversensitivity to noise?

(25 Posts)
linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 10:29:33

DS2 (4.2) cried and refused to enter nursery this morning because the fire alarm goes off on Mondays. He also fears vacuum cleaners and hand-driers. Can anyone help me figure out solutions?

- I don't think he realises you can block your ears to make sounds quieter - ok to teach him this do you think? I'm figuring it's like thumb-sucking - you always have your fingers with you so it should be quite a reliable strategy and it's not too anti-social. Anything to be wary of?

- I guess a social story is in order. He's at the level where I could explain "ooh, there's the fire alarm, let's look for fire. Is there a fire? No, no fire, turn off the alarm".

- But really I want to ask, is there any direct therapeutic technique that can be used to ease his oversensitive hearing?

It's so apparent to DH and me after watching him carefully for two years that the receptive language problems are the flip-side of the oversensitivity to pitch and timbre/the extreme musicality. I'd love to know if there are any ways to help integrate the sensory input here.

On the plus side, it's apparent that he has a real gift for music. It's nice to think that it will always be there for him, even when he's old smile.

silverfrog Mon 02-Nov-09 10:35:08

I think some people have had success with The Listening Programme, and sound therapy etc. But, also, others have found that ti made the problem worse, so that si something to be aware of.

dd1 has finally learned to block her ears, but she does it a lot of the time now - usually when she is unsure about soemthing. she possibly needs to block out sounds at that point to let her think, tbh. her noise sensitivity/perception is incredibly acute.

If it defintie noises at set times that your ds is wary of, then ear defenders could a route to learning to block out the noises?

dd1's school tried this on her but she hated it, and it made the issue worse (and I think is what led to her cntinual blocking of ears, by the way)

sorry, not much help, really <wry smile>

claw3 Mon 02-Nov-09 10:39:23

Hi Linglette, thats a tricky one. You would usually work on the whole body, deep pressure, weighted pressure etc are all calming for the central nervous system. But would depend greatly on what other senses are affected and how.

Have you tried a set of head phones with some music playing on a Monday?

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 10:40:47

ah, and she's very musical too isn't she? Any further thoughts on those music lessons? Don't suppose she could somehow be in a room where someone else was learning piano could she? This is how DS2 learns (seeing DS1 do it).

Thanks for the note of caution about ear-blocking. I once went to a therapist myself who thought his therapy would solve everyone's problems and it made mine worse!!!!So I can see what you're saying....

silverfrog Mon 02-Nov-09 10:51:52

yes, she's musical too - it has often struck me that your ds and dd1 are quite similar in language issues. I do think that dd1's musicality is what hindered her langugae learning when she was smaller, but then conversely it also helped her a great deal once she was able to filter what she needed to filter <realises this is gibberish, but I know what I'm trying to say blush>

we are no furhter forward with music lessons at the momnet, BUT we are about to be moving schools with dd1 (see "why am I anxious when i know I am doing the right thing" thread) and so we will tackle it at the new school. I am sure they will incorporate it into her lessons there (it's an ABA school) - at the very least she will get regular access to music throughout the day, and encouraged to join in, as it is one of her strongest rewards.

she is very interested in watching dd2 when she is playing with one of those piano books you can get, but then finds it all to painful when dd2 plays the wrong note, or the wrong rhythm etc, and rushes over to push the button to show dd2 how it should be done... and she cannot bear dd2 singing at all - poor dd2, she's not THAT bad (especially for a 2 year old!)

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 11:18:25

Not gibberish at all. DS2 can now talk, and often comments on how I pronounce words differently from DH (American). But a year ago, it was those very differences in accents that stopped him from understanding. He was so attuned to the different tones/pitches/timbres, he couldn't generalise and concentrate on meaning.

I do sympathise with your DD1. I'm probably more musical than 99% of the population and their music-blindness is so, so strange to me (just as my face-blindness is so baffling to them). I had some issues similar to your DD1's and grew out of them slowly.

When I'm watching DS1's piano lessons, I want to send the teacher on an ABA training course! It's absolutely incredible that any children learn anything at all on traditional teaching methods. Let's hope there's a musical teacher at the ABA school. It's a job I would love because I understand the pain she feels at the wrong notes!

The issue, of course, is that you can have extreme musicality but poor technique, and without technique you cannot progress and you cannot do what you want to do musically. And technique of course can only be acquired through practice and an ability to show and be shown. This is why I think of piano in relation to your DD. People have taught themselves the piano. No-one can really teach themselves the violin - it's too counter-intuitive. Can't speak for other instruments!

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 11:28:15

Still thinking of silverfrog junior, an alternative would be to wait till she is 7 or 8 and her general showing/being shown skills have improved and the senses may be more integrated/the coping strategies more advanced. You'll know from your own musical experience that starting at 7/8 is not too late to reach even the highest standards and that many professionals consider that waiting till 7/8 is in fact optimal.

You could consider the ABA education to be building those foundational "showing/being shown" and toleration skills that will then lead to an ability to acquire technique in two years' time.

I was so struck by the absurdity of the low expections people had about your DD1's ability to study music. It almost makes me laugh, and it certainly makes me suspect they are "music-blind."

silverfrog Mon 02-Nov-09 11:34:27

One of the teachers is indeed musical, and we have already flagged it up as importannt for dd1.

I have huge sypmathy for her - I was similarly control-freaky when small, but in my case it was purely down to perfectionism in a way - if I could play a simple tune easily, why could no-one else? pure not being able to understand another person's perspective - can't think why dd1 is ASD blush grin

dd1's ABA consultant does liaise with music teachers, if you're interested (well, with anyone wanting to learn ABA techniques, tbh - useful in most situations!)

"The issue, of course, is that you can have extreme musicality but poor technique, and without technique you cannot progress and you cannot do what you want to do musically. And technique of course can only be acquired through practice and an ability to show and be shown" - this is dd1's issues in a nutshell. and I know we can eventually get ehr past them, but it will be slow (and probably painful!)

On the self-teaching front, I did actually teach myself the violin grin - not very well, admittedly, but I did alright, and could tackle basic stuff well. It was about my 5th instrument - I was scarily musical without even realising that it didn't come easily to most people. I taught myself to read music at 6 ish, and played the recorder form then on. Took up the oboe at 9, with lessons. Added in anything I cam across after that point - so played the violin for a bit at 11 ish, as found one cheap in a junk shop, and learnt the bagpipes at 14, for somehting to do one summer blush In between dabbled with whatever I had access to - my music teacher commented, during my GCSE mock sightreading exam, that she had not been sure what instrument I was going to walk through the door with grin (my oboe was in need of a major overhaul that I couldn't aford at that point, and so I went with a bass recorder, having toyed with flute and clarinet as options!)

There is no way I'd have been able to learn the violin without prior musical knowledge, i don't think, though, and my mum had played violin too, so was able to answer any questions I had...

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 11:44:16

lol at your musical history. mine is much duller.

Would love to talk to your aba consultant. Wonder if s/he might be able to point me in the direction of some training materials, etc.

But no - look at me not practising what I preach! DS2 is 4. 4! Not 7, not even 6. Why am I thinking it's a problem that he can't access standard music teaching yet? The last thing I want is for him to be a virtuoso pianist!

linglette Mon 02-Nov-09 19:27:25

oops - an embarrassed update. I picked him up from nursery at lunch and they said he'd been unhappy all morning wanting cuddles .....and had I not noticed he appeared to have a temperature?


seemed they reassured him first thing that the bell was only due to ring in the afternoon and he was fine after that vis a vis the bell

DS2 must be doing so well that I am managing to revert to my natural state of crap-parentness smile.

grumpyoldeeyore Mon 02-Nov-09 21:23:17

I read a therapy programme in a Koegal book which was similar - a boy had major issues about 3 types of household appliances: vacuum cleaner, hand mixer and something else I can't remember. They started with one object at a time eg the vacuum and put it in the farthest room in the house with all the doors shut. They then gradually (and I think this was over days-weeks) opened the door and then moved it nearer and nearer to him until he was desensitised to it. They then did the same with 2nd appliance. By the third one he wasn't bothered anymore. Another thing the book mentioned was a child who had a problem going into assembly and they gave him headphones with music as he liked to listen to music and he got to play this as he walked into assembly and then had to turn it off earlier and earlier on the journey until he could do without it. Sorry thats not a very good explanation as I don't have the book anymore but it stuck in my mind as the first time I read anything which suggested these sensitivities could be worked on, before that I thought children with autism would have them for life. I guess you could try it with the vacuum but the hand drier would require daily trips out!

madwomanintheattic Tue 03-Nov-09 01:38:04

we still have this problem with hand driers and automatic toilets, and with 'unexpected' loud noises, but dd1's sensitivity to noise has greatly improved over the last 3 or 4 years. one real coping strategy we have used is to explain lots about 'the noise' whatever it is - so showing her the speakers, the equipment, the machinery, whatever. she can now tolerate being in a theatre or cinema (if we manage to get there in time to check out the sound system and remind her how 'loud' it is initially) and she even stayed in most of a band assembly this term!

nursery were very aware (they had problems with story tapes/ recorders, the janitor, fire alarms, trips etc) and the noise from cars/ lorries going past on the roadside used to make her fall over, but these days she is vastly improved, mostly due to increased exposure over time (when 'prepared lol) and her understanding improving.

linglette Tue 03-Nov-09 08:49:15

madwoman - I think I may follow your approach coupled with gentle desensitisation- we're very fortunate in that verbal explanations are now useful.

Life is so much easier now he can tell me what's wrong smile

devientenigma Tue 03-Nov-09 10:17:08

We have these r=8-25
He is also doing the listening programme. Deep pressure etc. HTH x

PeachyInCarnivalFeathers Tue 03-Nov-09 10:35:44

DS wears the cheap ski ear muffs from ebay, he can still hear through them but seems to getas much from theway they grip his head (around the back.Bit like the same theory as weighted blankets / Temple Grandin squeezy stuff).

WE did a lot of BIBIC stuff aroundnoise desensitisation but for us a lot was weird- he was hyposensitive on some things, hyper on other. OWuldnt blink to a klaxon but hated certain other nooises,now he is more classic hyper though. As he is musical maybe giving him lots to play might helpdesensitise? I'dalso be tempted to see if I could get someother processes going on- see if he can sing back the noise or whatever (ds1 does this instinctively) to adjust the outcome and give back some ocntrol.

linglette Tue 03-Nov-09 11:18:35

see if he can sing back the noise or whatever

thanks devientenigma and peachyincarnival.

I like the idea of singing back - he certainly likes role-playing and pretending to be a hand-drier, for instance.

mumslife Tue 03-Nov-09 14:30:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PeachyInCarnivalFeathers Tue 03-Nov-09 15:43:26

Joint attention issues? Can only process one thing at a time- so talking over the music etc, quite common in ASD though it presents in different ways.

lou031205 Tue 03-Nov-09 19:17:18

DD1 is hypersensitive to noise. Very acute hearing. Motorbikes, food mixers, raised voices, really affect her.

A pig squealed & she fell over!

Certainly for her though, how much she is affected depends on her general state of arousal, which is why deep pressure, etc. help.

MavisEnderby Tue 03-Nov-09 22:53:20

Oh Lou that ids interesting iirc your dd has some formof abnormal brain dev like dd who has a form of lissencephaly and she is very sensitive to a lot of noises,drills,food mixers and so on.I would try ear mffs vbut she just removes them.She is terrified of fireworks noise am dreading nov 5.

MavisEnderby Tue 03-Nov-09 22:55:49

Oh yes hand driers too,she is absolutely terrified of them.

MamanCochon Tue 03-Nov-09 23:54:28

ds2 has had very similar issues with hand-dryers etc. and also loves music, and also has huge problems concentrating, and other behaviours which indicate sensory integration problems. I've posted about him before. We've recently had an assessment by a paediatrician and by an OT and both have suggested a therapeutic listening program, so hopefully it will help him.

However, and I have never really thought about this much before, he always used to make a point of looking for the speakers when he could hear announcements on buses. So maybe madwoman's approach will help him too. That's as long as he doesn't have his hand over his ears to block out my talking. He does that a lot at the moment [wry smile].

mumslife Wed 04-Nov-09 07:43:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AboardtheAxiom Wed 04-Nov-09 07:56:28

DS now 5 (HFA) has always been sensitive to noises and favours clasping his hands over his ears, rooted to the spot screaming in terror. sad hmm We have had some very slow gradual success with certain noises that I decided were a big day to day issue that I wanted him to be able to cope with, for example hand driers (we slowly, gradually and reassuringly introduced these in disabled toilets were we could control when they were turned on, with no crowds around him) and hoovers (I bought a Henry which is much quieter than my old DYson, and is friendly looking - DS loves it and now actually wants to use it rather than running to the other end of the house in fear! He is also gradually accepting my hair drier, but won't be in the same room as it. grin

He is still terrifed of smoke/fire alarms though, blender, road work machinery etc. It has been very slow process gradually getting him used to sme of these noises but he is getting there and progress has only been very recent ie last two or three months so hang in there. smile

lou031205 Wed 04-Nov-09 08:35:14

Mavis, have you had an OT carry out a sensory profile with your DD? I did one on Monday with our OT, and it sank in how much DD reacts to the environment she is in.

The OT phoned last night to say that DD came out as having a 'definite difference' (categories are 'typical performance', 'probable difference' and 'definite difference') in lots of areas. sad but no surprise (I had googled after filling it in to prepare myself blush)

But, on the good side, the OT has written a comprehensive report, which will be circulated and will form part of her statementing report. She is also giving loads of strategies to manage the overload.

The really interesting thing, is that the hearing issues are affected by the issues with the other senses. The brain can only do so much, so if you can manage other sensory areas, you can get a reduction in the hypersensitivity to noise, IYSWIM.

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